WASHINGTON—The National Science Foundation’s science and technology centers program, intended to be a beacon for collaborative U.S. research that would speed applications to the marketplace, instead has become a lightning rod for criticism from the scientific community.

NSF’s decision not to fund any such centers this fiscal year provoked keen disappointment among scientists, especially those who had raced to meet the January 15 deadline. A number of applicants echoed the complaint of Robert Byer, research dean at Stanford Univer sity, that the process resulted in "a tremendous waste of scientific resources in this country.”

While many scientists criticized NSF’s procedure for soliciting applications, some also suggested ways for NSF to recoup part of the applicants’ collective investment. These range from an accelerated review and early ranking of the applications now awaiting fiscal 1989 funding, to making public (with the applicants’ permission) the major features of specific applications.

The foundation received...

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